Monday, February 22, 2010


So... I have had this website under my favorites and have referred back to it for different reasons through out my culinary ventures.

Last night, reading through the links and what not, I finally decide to read one link in particular that I have purposefully overlooked the past couple weeks and I must say, ones intuition is usually on point.
It totally BUMMED me out. *sad face*
The link title was "Cooking School is not for everyone"
It was based on a book written by Chef Leslie Bilderback, Certified Master Baker and author of Success as a Chef. Not only did she attend a “big name” culinary school, but also taught at the California School of Culinary Arts in Pasadena, CA and then was the Executive Chef at CSC when it partnered with Le Cordon Bleu.
Here is her response to a mother inquiring about her daughter wanting to go to school for baking and pastry arts;
I have a couple of points to make. First, here is the low down on culinary schools: They are expensive, and they do not necessarily prepare you for the real world. Big or small, the education is generally the same. Cooking skills don’t change much. And the name of the school will only get her in the door. It’s her skill that will get her the job.
***at this point, I'm still feeling generally O.K. about everything***

Please understand, I went to a big culinary school, I taught at one, and I was the Executive Chef of one. They can be terrific for the right type of person. But most students are not the right type. *** Still O.K. since I believe I'm that "type"***

The right type knows exactly what their dream culinary career entails. They have researched the job market, including job availability, salaries, and competition. **done that!**They know from experience what a food-service job entails, because they have already worked in food service, and they love it. (They love the sweaty heat, the tired aching feet, the foul language, alcoholism and drug abuse, low pay, no paid vacation or health insurance…unless they join a union.)
***uhhhh, have never worked in food service other than my own kitchen, but I still believe the hard work, achy back and long hours I've invested somewhat qualify me***

They are comfortable working for someone else; they know how to take direction, and criticism. Also, the right type of culinary student has no delusions of grandeur. They know, and are comfortable with, the fact that very few culinarians become rich and famous. ***well I didn't think all of em did but I did think if it was their dream and goal that it was at least possible***
(Most barely make it a year in the industry. Some hang in for 2 or 3 years before giving up.) The success rate of small restaurants and bakeries is pretty low, too. ***And this is where my heart sunk, my color faded and my dream just dissolved in the mist of 3 sentences***

The culinary schools are not packed with these kinds of students because they have little criteria for entrance. We use to joke that all a student needed to get into our school was a checkbook and a pulse. *** Geee, that's encouraging :/ ***
I know there are schools out there with integrity. I’m just not sure which ones they are. (In my book, I have lists of questions you should be asking these institutions).***note to self, purchase book***

My second point is that the best pastry chefs are good cooks first. *** well, I have a passion for cooking and am quite good at it (semi smile returns)***
It is better for a career to know it all, and then specialize. You are more marketable, more versatile, and more respected if you have a culinary degree, not just a pastry diploma. It’s like going to high school and only taking electives. You won’t get very far. *** and there goes another shot to the heart, culinary school as well as pastry school?!?! seriously??????***

One last thing… *** pondering at this point should I even go on to read, I mean, I'm already struggling to tug my dream from under the boot you smashed it with!!***

As a food service professional, and a parent, I strongly encourage kids to at least get an AA degree, if not a full on BA. If this means a couple years at the local JC, (perhaps while trying out a food service job) it’s totally worth it in the long run. Many, many things change in the future, and no one gets very far, even in food service, without a degree. *** whoa, couple years, and that's not even dedicated to the field! I don't have time to invest like that!!!***

And FYI mom, culinary school ain't cheap. ***no shit!*** And student loans are hard to pay back with a $9/hour bakery job.***what!? I immediately open up as I want to check up on this for self, unfortunately not too helpful*** Be sure to look into that end (also covered in my book).

Sorry to be kind of a downer. ***yeah. thanks.*** It is a problem in our industry, thanks to food TV, that too many of the wrong type are flooding the market. They graduate school, get a job, decide it’s not for them, and then quit. The restaurant is then saddled with more recruitment and training costs, which in turn keeps overall salaries down. We will never raise this industry to the level it deserves unless this stops. So people out there…be sure it’s what you want!!
And that concludes the reply. So I bought her book last night on amazon. I figured, I'd rather be in the truthful know, than the pseudo light. Ill be purchasing a couple other books on working in the culinary field as well. Now, my focus has completely shifted, I want to know. Everything
Before I start school in August. Yes, I'm still planning on attending. Still holding on to that dream. Maybe now, I'll be more prepared for the culinary world.
And initially my bummedoutness has me feeling like I'm doomed, but in the back of my mind I realize how beneficial this knowledge will be to me in the long run.
Yet, still, it is a downer. Yet, still, I want this. I want this. I WANT THIS!

No comments: